Naomi Osaka continues to prove one of the biggest unseeded threats but ultimately came up short for the second time in two weeks, enduring a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 defeat to Zheng Qinwen at the ecotrans Ladies Open in Berlin.

The former world No. 1 was playing her first match since losing a third-set tiebreaker to Bianca Andreescu at the Libema Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and though she pushed Zheng to a third set, the Australian Open runner-up and No. 6 seed struck an incredible 23 aces and served out a second victory over Osaka after two hours and 10 minutes on Steffi Graf Stadium.

“It was really hard because I got three or four match points and she saved them really well,” Zheng said on court after the match. “Naomi Osaka, she has to be one of the greatest players: she has a strong serve and hits hard. For me, this win means a lot and it’s never easy playing against her.”

Zheng and Osaka last faced off at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on clay, where the former scored a straight-set victory en route to the quarterfinals. Osaka has only improved in the weeks since, pushing world No. 1 Iga Swiatek to the brink of defeat at Roland Garros and reaching the Libema Open quarterfinals in her first grass-court outing since 2019.


After shaking off a narrow defeat to Andreescu, Osaka looked to earn her first Top 10 victory in over four years, her last coming against Kiki Bertens at the 2020 Brisbane International. A world No. 8, Zheng is an as-yet unproven commodity on grass, taking a 2-6 career record on the surface into Berlin.

Their rivalry has the added twist of the two having previously worked with the same coach: Wim Fissette coached Zheng through a breakout 2023 season only to part ways with the Chinese star ahead of Osaka’s planned return from maternity leave last fall.

Initially stung by the switch, Zheng since clarified she felt no ill will towards Fissette or Osaka after defeating the latter at the Foro Italico last month.


"I know she's always really tough to beat, doesn't matter what surface it is," Zheng said in Rome. "She won a lot of Grand Slam titles before, and it's not easy to come back after being a mother. I've always had a lot of respect to players like this. I think today, I tried to give my everything on court and tried to fight. I'm really proud of myself, and I also want to say to Naomi that she did really good because not all players have this mentality to come back as a mother."

Though she often struggles to achieve a high first-serve percentage, Zheng put on an impeccable serving performance against Osaka on Tuesday, striking seven aces in the opening set put herself in front early on.

Osaka responded with some strong hitting of her own, taking the lone break of the second set with a scintillating rally and ultimately evening the contest at one set apiece.


Much like the first two sets, the decider again came down to a single break, one Zheng took in in a tricky fourth game and held on even as Osaka gamely saved three match points in the match’s thrilling conclusion.

Striking 10 aces in the third set, Zheng clinched victory behind a well-struck forehand, jamming Osaka into a final error. In all, Zheng hit 41 winners to 29 unforced errors, while Osaka ended the match with 20 winners to 30 errors.

Awaiting the No. 6 seed in the second round is Czech qualifier and former WTA doubles No. 1 Katerina Siniakova, who knocked out American Emma Navarro in straight sets on Monday.